The Old Novel: “Voting”

I recently came across Uncertainty,  a novel I wrote in 2007.  And you know what?  It’s okay, though a bit static.  So I am posting a chapter called “Voting,” because I was concerned back then about the same political issues then as now.

“Voting,” from Uncertainty, by Kat (2007)

Rose’s Prozac restored her to her old self, a woman who believed in suffrage and citizenship. She could scarcely remember her depressed decision earlier not to vote.

She read the newspaper and made a checklist of candidates. She talked them up to her colleagues. She persuaded her boss Kent to vote. He was “independent.” They notoriously didn’t make it to the polls.

I’ll go on strike if you don’t vote, she said. Vote for anyone.

She could still recite the intro to the Declaration of Independence if she concentrated. She threatened to recite it to him.

Our father who art in heaven…

No, wait. That was the Lord’s Prayer. Catholicism doesn’t matter here. It isn’t a Kennedy world.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed…”

Rose and Ben had been voting at the Catholic church for years. They were glad to vote because, if nothing else, they got away from Rose’s sister Megan for a while. Megan didn’t leave the house. Rose felt guilty about leaving her alone. But tonight she and Ben had an excuse to go out and Megan as usual refused to accompany them.

In the darkness one of the nuns hurried past them up the steps and said hello. Startled, Rose started to fall. She muttered that she felt a little dizzy.

Panic attack? Ben asked.

No. Nuns scare me . I still remember kneeling in school, when a nun wanted to see if my skirt hem touched the ground. She made me kneel because my skirt was too short.

They sat on the damp steps of the church until she recovered. She enjoyed going to Mass, but she didn’t want to go into the church. She had to go into the church. Voting. Got to vote. Too many bad things had happened since 2000. The twenty-first century was going down. That’s what it was about. The dollar was worthless, though economists lied and said the economy was in good shape. The U.S.A. was just a country that fought with Iraq. Crazed SUV drivers intimidated people in parking lots. Oil wars, fought even in parking lots. Who can drive the biggest vehicle? Right-wing nuts picketed plays.

Ben said he hated voting in a church.

I believe in separation of church and state. Should we genuflect at the voting booth?

The elderly women at the tables checked their names on a list and gave them voting cards. They went into the booths and voted.

They walked to the restaurant. They were glad to get away from Rose’s sister, Megan, who was having a nervous breakdown in their house. Megan wouldn’t see a doctor. She wore a bathrobe and clogs she had borrowed from Rose. Every day Rose came home to find the mail had been opened by Megan: bills, junk, letters, and packages. Rose didn’t like to scream at someone who had gone nuts, but she said, Are you the CIA or what? and they quarreled. She felt like getting stoned with Megan to get away from worrying about her. But she didn’t. It was against her principles. She had her Prozac. And she didn’t think marijuana was doing Megan any good.

The bed in the spare room was now covered with Look and Life magazines Megan had bought years ago in a store in Cape Cod when her husband was still alive…Rose wondered how the Kennedys felt about this crap being sold near their summer home. Spread out across the bed were biographies of the Kennedys, SOUL ON ICE, Beatles biographies, Edward Gorey books, journalism by Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe, novels by Brigid Brophy,William Burroughs, and Ken Kesey. She took notes in Mead marbled composition notebooks in all sizes, filled with writing….some of it quite good. But it was all in note form. Nothing really got done. Megan sat in bed, writing occasionally, stoned, then read POLDARK half the time.

And then there was the Ben problem. Rose waited up late to spend time with Ben. Megan didn’t like Ben much. At a late dinner the night before Megan urged Ben and Rose to vote socialist, just to agitate Ben, though as far as Rose knew Megan always voted Democrat. Ben got very upset.

Ignore her, said Rose to Ben. To Megan she said, Leave him alone. You’re so perverse. Why do you do it?

He’s so despotic. I can’t take it.

Well, take it. Everybody likes Ben.

Oh, then I’m jealous. I don’t have a husband anymore. I miss my husband. He and I voted socialist when we were in our twenties. I was just reminiscing really.

Well…that wasn’t clear, Meg. Now we’re just trying to hold the country together.

With votes? How naive.

What else do you suggest?

Drop out. Have a garden.

Megan had actually tried that for a while. In a commune.  No voting there.